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Structural changes at Leo Burnett to induce specialisation

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Structural changes at Leo Burnett to induce specialisation

More active than ever, Leo Burnett India has significant changes taking place in its structure to suit the fast changing Indian market and consumer needs. Tom Bernardin, CEO and Chairman, Leo Burnett Worldwide explained that even as Leo Burnett India wasn’t one of the highest contributing units to Leo Burnett revenues, expectations were high from Indian operations.

Essentially, the change involves specialists. Explaining this, Arvind Sharma, Chairman, Leo Burnett India, said, “Our belief is that as any industry grows, it needs to have specialists within the industry or within that sector. To give an example, if you look at civil engineers today, within that segment itself, there are basic civil engineers, site engineers, structural engineers, architects and interior designers. There are different levels of specialisation and this is important for efficiency and quality. We are doing similar restructuring.”

Elaborating further on this, Sharma informed that the entire client servicing function was broken into four streams. There is Projects, headed by Seema Sood, with Prem Kamath as an AVP on the function. There is Brand Services, which Sharma defined as people who need to partner brands in their explorations of options. “They partner them on the whole range of brand extensions to advertising,” he said.

In a similar way, there is a group of people looking after consumers and the unit is called Consumer Trends, which is headed by Ajitha Bhardwaj as Director. “They worry more about the consumers of the brands. What are the consumer needs and expectations and whether that is met,” observed Sharma. And finally there are the Strategists, who understand brands and consumers and chalk out the move forward. Kavitha Kailash is Brand Strategy Partner at the agency.

“So, client servicing here is no longer old client servicing – it is far more specialised and well defined, ensuring that all aspects needed are covered, which is what we have done with the creative function as well,” said Sharma.

He pointed out that within creative, there were those who cracked the Big Idea, and once that was done, there was no need for this set of experts to be directly involved in the further execution and extension of that idea. Then there is the basic mechanical requirement of the creative function itself. Keeping this in mind, the function has been divided into three units. Of these, Creative and Neo Surround hail within the agency itself.

The creative function is headed by Santosh Padhi (aka Paddy) at the all India level as Executive Creative Director, while Nitesh Tiwari looks after the Mumbai operations. Neo Surround is headed by Praveen Garath. The third function – mechanical adaptation – is outsourced.

Sharma observed, “This structure allows us to be able to pay the best minds in the industry in these specialised functions. At the same time, the objective is to forge partnerships with our clients and together explore the various options that are available to them today.”

He further informed that the need to have a structure like this came from Leo Burnett’s initiative to delve in to consumer studies – both in-house and commissioned. “We wanted to be in a much stronger position to give consumer insights whenever clients needed it and have firsthand access to understand the extent of change and how brands need to be addressing consumers based on that change. We keep reading kids making decision for cars – how far is this true. Hence, we embarked on consumer studies to understand the extent of changes in consumer behaviour,” Sharma said.

These structures are already in place, but the agency is still in the process of identifying the right teams for these projects.

What is the way forward for Leo Burnett India? Bernardin replied, “To be the best source of business and brand ideas for our clients and to build the businesses of our clients in changing environment. These changes are a great opportunity and we want to seize them.”


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